Deepak Chopra recently sat down with TCM contributor, Sahara Rose for this exclusive interview on Ayurveda, modern culture and personal healing. Join along as the pair dive into the foundations of this ancient practice – and why they both believe that this approach to self-care matters more than ever.
Rose, a young expert with an old soul, has been personally deemed by Chopra as “a leading voice for the millennial generation into the new paradigm shift.”
Chopra also penned the forward to Rose’s new book, The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, and we have to say, we love the interplay between generations here as we enter a new era of wellness and mind-body consciousness.
We’re grateful for figures like Deepak Chopra who have paved the way for contemporary acceptance of useful mind-body wellness practices like Ayurveda. Listen up as Deepak and Sahara discuss the future of all things Ayurvedic…
Deepak: Sahara, it is a pleasure to interview you here today. Please tell us a little bit about Ayurveda in your words for The Chalkboard Mag Readers.
Sahara: Ayurveda is the world’s oldest health system, originating in ancient India 5000 years ago and the sister science of yoga. In fact, the two were meant to always be practiced together for complete mind-body balance. Ayurveda contains nutritional suggestions, morning and nightly routines, lifestyle suggestions, meditation practices and more for living your optimal life.
In fact, the Sanskrit word “Ayurveda” actually means “the knowledge of life” because in order to achieve health you must have full knowledge of your life. While in the West, we tend to just look at symptoms isolated from one another, in Ayurveda, everything is interconnected, from our digestion to our dreams. Each part of us has its own unique intelligence and a physical imbalance can manifest as a mental one and vice versa.
D: Ayurveda is indeed a holistic system of healing that has truly come to the forefront as people are seeking an alternative to drugs and surgery for lifelong well-being. Can you tell us about its connection to nature and the three Doshas?
S: We are a reflection of the Earth around us, comprised of her elements: Air, Ether, Fire, Water and Earth. These five elements come together to create the three Doshas or energies: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata is comprised of Air and Ether; Pitta is comprised of Fire and Water; Kapha is comprised of Earth and Water. These Doshas exist within us, the foods we eat and the environments we live in. Everything can be related to the Doshas — they’re essentially the language we use to describe things in Ayurveda.
To make the Doshas easier to understand, I like to call Vata the “wind” Dosha because it has wind-like characteristics; it’s cold, dry, ever-changing and unpredictable. In the body, excess wind causes the obvious gas, as well as bloating and constipation. Internal cold and dryness also manifests as dry skin, cold body temperature, cracking joints and other related symptoms. When we think about a mind with a lot of “wind” energy, we think creative, flexible, moving. That’s exactly what a Vata personality is like. Every Dosha can become imbalanced; excess wind can cause a tornado in the mind, leading to anxiety or insomnia. We’ve all been there before when we can’t sleep because our mind is racing. That’s a Vata imbalance, which is the root cause of about 60% of all imbalances.
I refer to Pitta as the “fire” Dosha because that’s exactly what it’s like: hot, sharp and powerful. Pitta is the Dosha in charge of all transformation in the body; metabolism, digestion, nutrient absorption, and assimilation. Again, any Dosha can become imbalanced: In the body, excess fire can lead to heartburn, overheating, sharp appetite and acne. When we think of a “fiery” person, we think strength, determination, passion. This is exactly what a Pitta personality is like. However, what does it mean if someone is “hot-tempered?” That means a Pitta imbalance. Too much fire can cause you to snap, become impatient or easily agitated. The term is “hot and bothered” essentially means Pitta imbalance.
Lastly, I call Kapha the “Earth” Dosha because it has all the qualities of our beautiful planet. The Earth is cool, dense, stable and giving, providing us with life-force. When you think of an “Earthy” person you think- soothing, calm, caring. That’s exactly what a Kapha personality is like. However, too much Earth can make you feel stuck in the past, resistant to change and lethargic. It’s slow-moving. In the body, excess Earth causes weight-gain, heaviness and mucus accumulation.
We are comprised of all three Doshas but in varying amounts. Some of us are born with more Vata, others more Pitta and others more Kapha. Our diet, lifestyle and environment will also influence our doshic constitution. To maintain health, we must keep each of our Doshas in balance. This will look different at different times of the year or periods in our lives because our bodies are always changing.
Ayurveda is essentially a system is maintaining balance amongst the Doshas. It teaches us how to look out for symptoms of imbalance and understand which Dosha it is caused by so we know exactly what to address. Once we become familiar with the Doshas, we can observe “Oh, I’ve been feeling really lethargic– my Kapha must be out of balance!” or “I’ve been really bloating, I should follow a Vata-pacifying diet” and know exactly which suggestions to follow to regain balance.
D: What prompted you to begin your journey as an Ayurveda expert and now a published author?
S: My own health issues! I think when we are faced with an issue ourselves, we go to great measures to research the ins-and-outs of the subject, becoming accidental experts! For me, chronic digestive issues were what catapulted my quest to balance. I went from doctor to doctor trying to decipher the root cause of my constant digestive discomfort, which was diagnosed as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), but each just pointed me to a new pill to mask the symptoms, none of which worked. I was told there is no real cure to IBS and this was just something I was going to have to deal with indefinitely. I refused to take that as an answer.
The body was designed to work efficiently and if we are experiencing digestive pain on a daily basis, something is up. I became my own investigator and spent all my free-time studying the intricacies of the digestive system and its relation with food, which interestingly enough, no doctor ever asked me about. I became so passionate about the subject that during my undergrad I became a Certified Sports Nutritionist and Holistic Health Coach and launched my blog, Eat Feel Fresh. I knew that my symptoms were my body speaking out to me about a deeper imbalance that only a total dietary and lifestyle change could address. However, with all the contradicting nutritional theories out there, I didn’t know which advice to follow.
I tried more diets you can even imagine at this time, Deepak. I tried everything from cleanses to autoimmune paleo protocols yet nothing was sustainable. The moment I began eating normal food again, the agonizing cramps were back. I lost so much weight at this time and became afraid of eating because everything caused pain. I didn’t want to live my life on a strict diet anymore. I didn’t want to fear food, something that was meant to cause joy. I craved a system of eating that included living. Something that was fluid and inclusive and most importantly- put my mental health first. I didn’t want to live my life on a protocol.
I began deeply studying ancient healing systems, such as Chinese Medicine, macrobiotics and eventually came across Ayurveda. What immediately drew me to Ayurveda was its focus on the digestive system and connection with yoga, which I began practicing at 12. In Ayurveda, it’s not you are what you eat but you are what you digest. I realized so many of these “healthy” foods I was eating, I was not actually digesting and absorbing because my digestive “fire” was so weak. The juice cleanses and restrictive protocols were only making it worse.
Learning about Ayurveda was like relearning a language I’ve known for a thousand lifetimes. Everything in it just made sense to me on an intuitive level. I spent the next two years learning Ayurvedic nutrition and cooking from doctors, practitioners, healers and chefs throughout India and immediately felt called to write a book merging ancient Ayurvedic wisdom with modern Western nutritional science, which I entitled Eat Right For Your Mind-Body Type. My blog, Eat Feel Fresh, really took off with my unique approach to Ayurveda and last year Penguin Random House selected me to write the official Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda!
I truly believe my health obstacles were given to me by the universe for a reason- to make me become a healer. I now use my experiences to help others undergoing the same issues and encourage everyone to discover their Dosha. We are all gifted with the opportunity to make our mess our message.
D: It was indeed your destiny to write Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda and become a voice for holistic healing for your entire generation. Nothing is a coincidence and the meaningful synchronicities you’ve been experiencing show that you are on the right path. I am very honored to have written your forward and can truly testify that this book will inspire readers to take the matter of their health into their own hands.
S: Aw thank you so much Deepak Ji and it means the world to me that you did! Even meeting you was pure synchronicity (which I discuss in this podcast episode) and having you write the foreword still feels like a dream come true every time I think about it. Your book, Perfect Health, was the first Ayurveda book I ever read and introduce Ayurveda to the mainstream Western audience in 1991, the year I was born! Thank you for all that you’ve done over decades to bring this consciousness-based system of healing to light. You’ve been a lifelong inspiration for me and millions of others. I am in the deepest gratitude for your work and support.
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